As a kid, I played soccer, softball, one season of basketball (I was terrible), and lots of volleyball. For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself an athlete. Naturally, I was forced to run either because it was part of the sport or because it was part of punishment in the sport (ahem, volleyball). I don’t remember liking it, and in fact, I had asthma as a child which really cramped my running style. But despite wheezing my way through soccer and viewing running as punishment, I really wanted to be a good runner. The idea of being able to run, either very fast or for a very long time, was appealing. And kinda sexy.
I tried to join the track team in 7th and 8th grade, but failed both times when I stopped going to practice after the first days. I finally managed to stick with it (woo!) when I went out for track my freshman year, and I was promptly stuck into the middle distance group to run the 400m. Ha. What a sucker. I had no idea how torturous 400s are. Needless to say I quickly found out, but since I had found my determination at that point (maybe THIS is when the Run Monster was really born??), I kept running them. I competed in the 400m at every meet that spring, and I got my butt kicked every. single. time. I distinctly remember not being able to break 72 seconds. It should be noted that I wasn’t fast enough for the 200m or the 100m, and reallyyyyy wasn’t in shape enough for the 1600 m or the 3200m, which is probably how I wound up in middle distance, running 400s at a glacial pace. I should clarify that when I say I got my butt kicked, I mean that I came in last. Not just somewhere after first. Last.
I remember crying after a fair number of races. It’s really frustrating to put your body through the pain of a 400 and lose badly all the time. But this story has a happy ending, so stay with me. That first year I managed to score a spot on the 4x400m relay team, and thanks to the three other girls that were awesome, that relay team did pretty well. We made it to state, as did the 4x800m relay team. Then for some reason, one of the members of the 4×8 was suddenly unable to run in the relay and with the other three 400m girls doing other events, my coaches decided to have ME fill in. This was really a crazy idea because I had never run an 800 before, and this was the state meet for crying out loud. But being the people pleaser that I am, I agreed.
So there it happened, at the state meet in the 4x800m relay, that I ran my first 800m. My life changed! I ran a better 800 (relative time-wise) in that first race than any of the 400s I had run all season. I found ‘my’ race. For the next three years, I focused on the 800m and only ran the 400m to occasionally give myself a little speed workout (never because I wanted to, but you know how coaches can be…). I still wasn’t amazing my sophomore year, but by junior year I gave up fall volleyball and did cross country instead, which greatly improved my stamina. By the time I was a senior, I was actually winning in the 800m occasionally and qualified for state as an individual. I can still remember a workout I did right before the state meet. One of my old coaches was there and asked me if I was going to break 2:27. Without even hesitating I said “absolutely,” and sure enough, I set a PR at 2:25 in the state meet.
I was so happy. As cliche as it sounds, I know that that victory would not have tasted as sweet had I not had to struggle for four years to get there. Track, and running more generally, has taught me so much about patience, perseverance, discipline and focus.
I continued to run in college but only recreationally. I did a few half marathons here and there, but more often than not I was running to stay in shape rather than with a race in mind. Looking back, I realize that this is because having a running buddy makes a huge difference to me, and I usually didn’t have one in college. In fact, I hadn’t had one in graduate school until this past January, which is where this marathon business begins.
A friend of friend contacted me January 2013 because she had heard that I *might* be willing to run some longer runs with her and *might* have a similar pace. This person, Lina, told me that she had decided to run a marathon in May and was looking for someone to do her long runs with her. Since I had been starved for a running buddy for years, I quickly agreed, with the added thought that some longer runs would also prepare me better for my second Tough Mudder in June. After getting through a 12 mile run with Lina during which we both felt awesome, I took the plunge and signed up for the Chicago Marathon 2013. I chose this marathon first because (a) it’s the Chicago marathon and (b) a fellow Chi Omega had run this marathon in 2012 for charity, and I wanted to follow suit. My mother is a survivor of kidney cancer, so I decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society team, Determination.
Once the decision was made to do a marathon, I realized that I wanted to do one sooner than October since I was basically doing the training for it. The thought of Lina doing her May marathon without me made me sad because we loved our long runs together so much, that it only seemed right to be together for the big day. And afterall, she was responsible for all this marathon-stuff in the first place! So, I signed up for the Cox Providence Marathon 2013, and found myself committed to two marathons before ever having run one.
Both marathons came and went, and you can read about my first one here and about my second one here. I learned so much during my marathon year: about running, about myself, and about myself as a runner. For starters, I learned that at least for the time being, the marathon distance is not for me. It inflicts a kind of pain that takes away the fun of running (again, for me).
On the other hand, I learned that I can handle much more than I thought I could mileage-wise, and marathon training made me fall in love with running middle distances all over again. Since the 2013 BofA Chicago Marathon, I’ve been focusing on distances between 5k and half marathon, and I am having an absolute blast.